‘Only minority of Portsmouth’ opposes door being shut on asylum seekers says Tory councillor

Protesters in Guildhall Square in advance of a council where the authority decided to close the door on refugees
Protesters in Guildhall Square in advance of a council where the authority decided to close the door on refugees
Capt Nics Wetherill undergoing cold weather survival drills in Norway's Arctic Circle Picture: Cpl Jamie Dudding

Army medic from Portsmouth set to lead all-female Antarctic adventure

  • Tories stand firm by decision to write to home secretary demanding Portsmouth be removed as cluster area
  • Campaigners say shock move has left a ‘stain’ on the city
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‘WE’VE spoken up for the majority in our city who desperately need more support and don’t want to be made less of a priority than asylum seekers.’

Defiant members of Portsmouth City Council hit back after they were attacked for approving plans to get the door slammed on families fleeing war-torn countries.

Cutting resources for elderly and vulnerable people is spitting in the face of the city.

Tory councillor David Tompkins

A controversial Tory proposal was passed that will see the authority write to home secretary Theresa May requesting Portsmouth be removed as a ‘cluster area’ taking in asylum families.

The move has sparked outrage from activists and organisations who work closely with those in desperate need – saying it’s brought shame on the city.

But Tory council leader Donna Jones stands firm by the decision – and other members say only a ‘minority’ of city residents are most concerned.

Cllr Jones said: ‘There has been a massive overreaction to this request to the Home Office to consider removing Portsmouth as a cluster area.

‘This is me, as the leader of the city council, making a simple request to the government, to reassess our status, to ease the pressure on school places, children’s services, social care – and we have a very long housing waiting list.’

Tory councillor David Tompkins, who backed the bid at this week’s full council, said: ‘I absolutely stand by what I said.’

On what he thought of Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s accusation the council had spat on those who supported asylum seekers, he said: ‘It’s a childish, petulant response – absolute nonsense.

‘It seems the people most vocal on this issue are the minority.

‘Cutting resources for elderly and vulnerable people is spitting in the face of the city. I’m not saying we should never have asylum seekers, it’s just at the current time, it’s a growing problem and we have to address it.

‘If we were to allow 1,000 more in tomorrow – the open borders people would just push for more and more.’

Cllr Tompkins said: ‘It’s a sensitive issue, we know that. But there’s no way I am going to tell a pensioner on the doorstep whose care has been cut and has worked all of their life we have to accommodate these people because we have a responsibility.’

But Stand Up To Racism campaigner Jon Woods, who led a lobby against the anti-asylum proposal, said: ‘It’s a very, very sad day for Portsmouth. It brings a stain on the city in terms of the official council position to say, no more refugees.

‘It lacks compassion, it’s unjustified and doesn’t reflect the vast majority of people in the city.’

Cllr Jones said she wants the city in future to have control over the number of families coming in.

She said: ‘While people are twisting this as the Tories being anti-asylum seekers, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘We have compassion and care deeply about the atrocities that have gone on under the Assad regime in Syria.

‘We are not saying we don’t want any more asylum seekers in Portsmouth.

‘We simply want to be in the same position as the rest of the towns and cities in the UK where we are in a position to offer help, as opposed to it being imposed on us.’